I was at a place called Color Me Mine recently and noticed a ceramic plaque to paint that said “Kindly Remove Your Shoes.”
I smiled and was immediately drawn to it. I recalled a party I had a few years back where I had printed a sign for my door that said the same thing…and ended up with nearly fifty pairs of shoes in the hallway. Some people laughed, some were embarrassed and said they should have worn nicer socks, some resisted the idea, and others understood and were gracefully compliant. Fortunately, unlike Carrie Bradshaw in a Sex & the City episode, no one rushed off with someone else’s Minolo Blahnick’s.
I began taking off my shoes in my home while living in New York City. I had started to study Feng Shui and had a new sense of reverence for my environment. I was aware that was standard practice in Asian countries such as Japan, China, Cambodia, Taiwan and India – and soon learned that it is also traditional in Sweden, Canada, Jamaica, Turkey, parts of Europe and the UK, and Hawaii.
While some cultures, like the Japanese, take off shoes primarily to keep their floors and tatami mats clean (because they sit and sleep on them), others have a more religious origin related to removing shoes before entering a sacred space or place of worship.
The fact is, there are millions of people around the world doing it, yet somehow, here in America, we often balk at the idea. Perhaps it’s because of the inconvenience or maybe because we feel “exposed” without our footwear.
Why do it? Well, to be frank, shoes are dirty. We walk around all day – on surfaces ranging from sidewalks and pesticide treated grass to offices, restaurants and retail stores. And, let’s not forget public restrooms! We pick up dirt, bacteria, and chemicals and it stays on the bottom of our shoes – then we carry that into our home. We relax, put our feet up, step on a chair to get down a vase, and eventually take off our shoes and crawl into bed.
Granted I am a bit of a clean freak…it comes with the territory when you are Feng Shui consultant and interior designer, but the statistics do not lie. As cited in a first-quarter issue of Parenting Magazine this year, 85% of the germs in our homes are carried in on our shoes.
An ABC Good Morning America report, based on studies done at the University of Arizona, found infection-causing bacteria on people’s shoes – 90% of which transferred to the floors in a house. For carpets, the percentage was even higher. The researchers noted that toilet seats were actually significantly cleaner.
And, while some of us just walk on our floors, many have pets and children that spend hours crawling or playing on that surface – toddlers putting their hands in their mouths up to 100 times in a single hour. That alone should be reason enough!
If you need additional encouragement, consider a few more philosophical reasons:
1) Our home is a sanctuary (or it could be). We revere people, food, clothing, and cars. However, often forget about our environment.
2) Bare feet can help us feel more relaxed and grounded. Just like changing from our work clothes and slipping into “something more comfortable,” we can achieve a similar feeling when we leave our footwear at the door.
3) It’s a great “transitional” tool. When going from outdoors to in, this practice can support us in shifting our energy to being “at home.”
If you dislike bare feet, have socks, slippers or other “indoor” footwear near the door. That will keep your floors, carpets and rugs and overall home cleaner, and your immune systems stronger. It will also help reduce noise, and establish a sense of reverence for our homes.
If we shower, wash dishes and brush our teeth every day…perhaps we can also remove our shoes to honor and respect our home in the same way we honor ourselves.
Won’t you “Kindly remove your shoes?”